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Ireland closer to legal abortions

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

DUBLIN — Ireland appeared on course to legalize abortion in limited circumstances as lawmakers voted on Tuesday to support a bill that would permit a pregnancy to be terminated when deemed necessary to save a woman's life.

Catholic leaders warned that the proposed law, which faces potential amendments this week and a final vote next week, was a “Trojan horse” designed to permit widespread abortion access in Ireland. But Prime Minister Enda Kenny insisted Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion would remain unaffected, and his government's Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill won overwhelming backing in a 138-24 vote.

Ireland's 1986 constitutional ban on abortion commits the government to defend the life of the unborn and the mother equally. Ireland's abortion law has been muddled since 1992, when the Supreme Court ruled that this “ban” meant that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman — including, most controversially, from suicide threats.

Six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of the Supreme Court judgment, citing its suicide-threat rule as open to abuse. This left Irish hospitals hesitant to provide any abortions except for the most clear-cut emergencies.

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